“I thought these were supposed to be the two best teams,” one fan joked at the end of the first quarter. A kickoff runback, three fumbles and an interception.
The Bears took the lead on Devin Hester’s opening kickoff run back for a touchdown and lead 14-6 after a good catch by Musin Muhammad from Rex Grossman. In between, Peyton Manning eluded a sack and hit a wide-open Reggie Wayne for a touchdown on a blown coverage although the holder botched the conversion.
Even though the Bears had the lead, you didn’t think they were in control, nor did it seem that Indy had any grasp of the game either.
And it was raining. Harder and harder.
But the Colts seemed to accept the fact that the game was going to be played in these conditions and they were going to just have to find a way to get it done. The Bears continued to try and run the ball and why not? The Colts were the worst team against the run in the regular season, but they’ve become a very stout defense in the playoffs.
“Because we’re playing better,” Tony Dungy deadpanned during the week. That and the return of Bob Sanders to the defensive backfield.
When the Jaguars ran for 375 yards against the Colts in December, Sanders wasn’t in the game. Adam Vinatieri hit a 29-yard field goal after a nice drive to bring Indy to within 5 at 14-9.
Manning seems to have settled down after his first quarter interception and the Colts offense looks like the Colts offense of the regular season not the one that struggled against Baltimore and into the post-season. But the key is they’re running the football. Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai are all over the place running and catching and the Bears seem content to give them that. Marvin Harrison is making some catches, although none for big yardage.
Another controlled drive lead to a Colts touchdown by Rhodes and a 16-14 halftime lead for Indianapolis. Chicago is in the game despite having virtually no offense in the second quarter. Take away the opening kickoff return and this game looks like all Colts.
They’ll get the ball in the second half and they take it right down and score on 13 plays getting another Vinatieri FG. But they converted three long third downs and look to be wearing the Chicago defense out.
On Lex and Terry I picked the Colts, mainly because I didn’t think the Bears with Rex Grossman could score enough points. I didn’t give the Colts defense enough credit but Grossman is living up to the downside of his billing. He’s fumbled a couple of snaps and tripped over his own feet once going back to throw. He has to be efficient and smart, but Manning is doing that instead of trying to hit the home run. It seems that he knows that if he doesn’t make any stupid mistakes, the Colts can get the job done. A different feeling for him, letting his defense create field position and play a bit of a clock management game.
The Colts get another field goal but so do the Bears. It’s now 22-17 and Chicago, despite no offense, is still in the game. Grossman’s pass to the sideline was intercepted by Kelvin Hayden a backup, and returned 56 yards for a touchdown. That looks like it’ll seal it for the Colts barring something weird happening.
As soon as Grossman let go of the ball everybody wondered “Why?” It was an easy pick and the runback was only in question as to whether he stepped out or not.
Colts win and the stats are dominating. Twenty-four first downs to eleven, and a few of those for the Bears came in the last drive.
Manning is the MVP, although they could have easily given it to the offensive line or both running backs.
Despite the rain and the early sloppy play, the game went as expected. Indy scored and Chicago couldn’t match it. Manning wins the big game by playing out of character, just taking what the defense will give him.
A nice win for Tony Dungy too, showing that you can coach without being a raving maniac. Leadership isn’t all about screaming and hollering after all.